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iffr: full or empty

'Full or empty' ('Gol ya pouch'), by director Abolfazl Jalili, is another one of those delightful Iranian films that clothe sharp social commentary in lighthearted humor and a casual style of storytelling.

Jalili, whose filmography shows that most of his films have had trouble being released in Iran, made this film almost entirely on his own. As he explained, he was waiting for the necessary permits for the film, which took so long he decided to just start without them. Although he was able to finish the film and even show it in the town market where it was shot, government officials were not amused -- no doubt complicating future projects for him.

Ironically, the film is about the same kind of rebellious foolhardiness. An ambitious kid applies for a teaching job and gets mired in endless bureaucracy. While waiting, he tries to make a living with a number of odd jobs, pursues a girl and gets into all kinds of trouble. But he still perseveres. In the end, his application is approved, but there is one other candidate. To decide between them, the official calls in a 'full or empty' player.

('Full or empty', called 'balletje balletje' in Dutch, is a sleight of hand type gambling game where you have to guess which hand contains some little object. There doesn't seem to be a word for it in English, though 'Find the Lady' amounts to the same thing.)

The protagonist's picaresque adventures are as hilarious as they are realistic. His unshakable optimism in the face of adversity must be of the same kind that gets films like this made.


iffr: story undone

Only at the Rotterdam Film Festival will you find yourself in a late night Q&A entirely conducted in Farsi. Iranian director Hassan Yektapanah explains his film ' Story Undone ', a weirdly funny film about two documentary makers attem… Read the full post »

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